Review of BibleWorks 9
J. Brian Tucker
Criswell Theological Review N.S. 8.2 (Spring 2012): 109-10.
BibleWorks has been the leading exegetical software package for those seeking to engage the biblical text in a detailed fashion, at least for Microsoft Windows-based users. BibleWorks 9, an upgrade from BW8, still only runs in that environment but can also do this through virtualization on Mac OS X. The BibleWorks 9 user interface contains the search window with command line that allows searches and navigating verses. In the command line, one enters a verse, or a word prefaced by a period. The requested verses show up in the results list, from which the user can select a verse to study. The chose verse appears in the browse window, which allows more in-depth study. Further extensive research can be seen in the analysis window with tabs that provide a wealth of information on the verse or word in question. One addition in version 9 is that the analysis window can be subdivided to add a fourth column and the user can reorganize its tabs. This provides access to two resources at the same time, which increases efficiency. All three of the user interface windows offer right click context menus that provide short cuts for working with various options appropriate to that part of the program with which one is working. The majority of the options for the program are accessed through the main menu; particularly useful here are the tools, resources, and help menus (the ubiquitous F1 key still provides ever-present help throughout the program). The button bar, one of the most obvious improvements from version 8, gives one access to significant BibleWorks tools. The status bar at the bottom of the screen provides further program information and access. The labels can be double clicked in order to have quick access to several repeated tasks (e.g. changing versions and settings search limits). Those familiar with BibleWorks will feel right at home with version 9; however, even those who have worked with this program for years will find the how-to videos require viewing.
The strength of BibleWorks has been its ability to analyze the biblical text, and version 9 continues with that commitment. The inclusion of the BibleWorks Manuscript Project allows the user to compare original manuscripts, with high quality digital images of the texts that are fully searchable. This allows for a new level of contextual analysis of variants and will contribute to the current methodological revaluation with regard to textual criticism. BibleWorks 9 includes, among others, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus and Bezae. These have full transcriptions notes), digital images, verse tags, comparison tools and, though incomplete, some morphological tags (with more to come). Furthermore, the New Testament Critical Apparatus form the Center for New Testament Textual Students is also included, securing for BibleWorks a place as the preeminent electronic resource for detailed manuscript analysis and textual criticism. The NT Greek texts that are included in the program have been updates, corrected, and revised; one major improvement is that the user is able to have differences in the Greek texts highlighting the main window (this improvement also applies to translations).
BibleWorks continues to stay committed to what it does well, but the programmers have also listened to its customers by beginning to provide other tools that are integral to the exegetical process. While key biblical language grammars are included, BDAG and HALOT will need to be purchased separately, and the ESV Study Bible, Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, and Grudem's Systematic Theology are examples of non-language specific tools that are now available for purchase (to be unlocked) by the user.
BibleWorks' strength continues to be evident at the syntactical and grammatical level; however, analysis above the sentence level still remains a challenge for the program, and those committed to discourse analysis, while having some useful tools at the disposal, will be left longing for further development of the BibleWorks in that area. With this one shortcoming noted, BibleWorks still remains an indispensable and recommended resource for pastors, seminary students, researches, and teachers, and for those who have BibleWorks 8, version 9 is well worth the $159 upgrade. The search capabilities and the ease of morphological analysis make this a program that seldom frustrates its user and often brings to the fore insights that may not have been gained otherwise.
J. Brian Tucker, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of New Testament at Moody Theological Seminary—Michigan.